RBS Six Nations 2013 – Ones to Watch

Craig Gilroy

England – Dan Cole

This was a tough decision given the initial impact Joe Launchbury had in the Autumn Internationals, whilst Tom Wood and the ever-dynamic Manu Tuilagi were also strong contenders. After what seemed like hours of deliberation I decided to go for Cole, someone who I wax lyrical about on Twitter every time I see him play.

Cole has come a long way in a short time, especially when you consider the fact props don’t tend to reach their peak until their late 20s/early 30s. He is a destructive scrummager who can hold his own against any international loose-head and is as reliable a ball carrier as they come.

Perhaps his most underrated attribute however is his ability at the breakdown. He plays like a back row forward when the ball is on the ground and, in my opinion, turns the ball over more effectively than any other front-row forward in world rugby.

France – Wesley Fofana

France are a team littered with an abundance of talent in their pack, with stars such as Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir and Pascal Papé to name but a few. Going against my traditional preference for forwards, I opted for Fofana, who is as exciting a back as I can currently think of in world rugby.

The centre burst onto the international scene in last year’s Six Nations when he scored four tries for Les Bleus and displayed the searing pace and intelligent running lines he has become known for.

He comes into the Six Nations on the back of good form for his club side, Clermont Auvergne, playing especially well in their Heineken Cup campaign. He could prove to be the perfect foil for the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud outside of him, and should prove critical to France’s Grand Slam hopes.

Ireland – Craig Gilroy

The fact that Gilroy has been left out of the Wolfhounds squad for tonight’s match against the Saxons makes it tempting to think that he might be in the frame for a starting berth next weekend. Certainly, given Gilroy’s form for Ulster, he should at least be in the squad.

Both Jamie Heaslip and Brian O’Driscoll were enticing options, but with Tommy Bowe missing the competition through injury, the time is nigh for Gilroy to make an impact on the international scene.

Since the Shane Horgan/Denis Hickie era, I have been unconvinced by Ireland’s wingers. With the exceptions of Luke Fitzgerald and Bowe, they have struggled to find any depth in the position, with both Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls impressing more at centre. Gilroy looks primed to buck this trend and help Ireland usher in the looming post-O’Driscoll era.

Italy – Sergio Parisse

This is certainly the most unsurprising pick I’ve made, and as much as I would like to highlight some uncapped youngster ready to take Italian rugby by storm, all of the Azzurri’s hopes do tend to live and die with Parisse.

The back row forward is an exceptionally gifted rugby player and is certainly the best number eight in Europe, if not the world.

He often seems omnipresent for Italy, and they will need him to be so again this year if they are to live up to expectations after a promising Autumn.

Scotland – Tim Visser

Scotland’s most troubling problem over recent years has been their inability to convert territory and possession into tries, and the solution, in a word, could be Visser.

The Dutch-born flyer has been scoring tries for fun for his club side Edinburgh, and after two tries on his home debut for Scotland against the world champions New Zealand, many are hopeful he can continue this trend on the international scene.

Clamours for a Lions starting spot and that he is Scotland’s try-scoring salvation may be somewhat premature given that he has just five caps, but his performance in the Six Nations could yet justify both of those claims. The big question will be whether or not he sees the ball enough against tough defences like England and France to be as effective as he hopes to be.

Wales – Justin Tipuric

Another tough decision, and ignoring the likes of Eli Walker and George North was difficult. Tipuric’s excellent form for the Ospreys, along with the ensuing calls from many for him to start at seven for both Wales and the Lions, were enough to force my hand.

Sam Warburton is one of the best players in North Hemisphere rugby, so for experts to call for Tipuric to be selected ahead of him, or to shuffle him to the blindside to accommodate the Osprey, is truly haughty praise.

Whether he starts or features from the bench, Tipuric’s dynamism at the breakdown will be sorely needed for Wales, as they look to bounce back from a very disappointing autumn and challenge for the Six Nations title.

By Alex Shaw

21 thoughts on “RBS Six Nations 2013 – Ones to Watch

  1. Not to be knocking Parisse who clearly is Italy’s best player by some distance but I think Picamoles or Faletau are Europe’s premier No.8’s right now and I think K Read pips him for top No.8 worldwide.

    1. Imagine if Parisse was playing in a team like France, Wales, or even the AB’s, with other players t shoulder some of the responsibility. Not only is Parisse the best player, he is the captain, and the guy that everyone turns to when things go to pot. I wouldnt be surprised if they started handing him the kicking tee next! ;) (that was a joke…)

      I think that if Parisse and Fernandez Lobbe were born to other major rugby nations, like NZ, they would without doubt be the best players in the world. The fact that they manage to consistently perform at such a high standard that they are even considered the best shows how truly quality those two actually are.

      I liken Italy with and without Parisse to a game i played as a school boy. We played a team twice, the first game we lost 43-12, the second that season we won 20-12. What was the difference? No Joe Launchbury for the other team… Parisse can have that sort of impact at International Level, which to me suggest he is something truly out of the ordinary.

      1. Well I’m man enough to admit I was wrong, Parisse was clearly Europe’s premier No. 8 this weekend for sure!

        1. he was outstanding, and massive credit to you John, it takes a big man to admit defeat ;) in all fairness, its not like picamoles or faletau had awful games either. they were both just playing in teams that did not want to be there.

          parisse on the other hand seemed to have another 14 players around him for once! imagine if the italians played like that every week!

          1. I’m fine with that as long as they don’t bring it to the last weekend. Ireland vs Italy for the Slam?! :-P

            On a serious note, it entirely possible for England and Italy to end up playing in a potential Slam decider in week 3. Who could’ve seen that coming?

    1. have to agree here. I understand why Gilroy got the nod, but to not mention Zebo, who was one could easily argue getting the spot over gilroy.

      I personally feel that Zebo is the more likely of the two to get a starting birth, even though i think they should be the 2 wingers based on current form (and Bowe being out)

  2. Dan Cole’s breakdown work is definitely not “his most underrated attribute”. Any analysis or comment by any pundit for the whole of this season has been accompanied with “hes like and extra 7” or something similar. Nobody however picks up how many penalties he gives away at the breakdown. He gave away a load against Ospreys. He is still a very good operator at the breakdown but needs to cut out his penalties.

    1. i agree with Nick in that i don’t think his work at the breakdown is underrated. Dont get me wrong, he is fantastic at the breakdown, but everyone knows (and says) that he is.

      regarding him giving away pens against the Ospreys, i do recall a few of them being a bit suspect calls from the ref. Similarly Tipuric was ping a couple of times when he was clearly in the right. I feel that the officiating that that game was a little off, as there had been a directive to be particularly tough on the breakdown.

      but once again, Cole is continuously referred to as “another backrow forward” because of his work at the breakdown.

  3. Visser, really? “scoring tries for fun for his club side Edinburgh”? Not in the Heineken cup he hasn’t! And Edinburgh are 9th in the Rabo Pro 12. They have scored some tries in the Pro 12, but have let in just a few as well.
    Personally I would’ve thought Kelly Brown or David Denton would be one to watch? I don’t get to watch Pro 12, but watching Visser’s performances in the HC he looks lazy and overrated.

  4. I have to agree with John. Beattie is the player I am most looking forward to seeing back in a Scotland shirt. Visser is undoubtedly a try machine (something Scotland have lacked for years… and years) so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that in the 6N. Hopefully the Scottish team will perform considerably better than Edinburgh so that he will get some chances to finish off.

    1. i am thinking a potential backrow of Beattie (8), Denton (6) and Brown (7). Looks pretty brutal! then the option to bring fusaro off the bench, which should up the tempo of the game, and get him trying to steal ball against tired legs

      1. I would be happy with that Simo, but I’d prefer Beattie (8), Brown (6) and Fusaro (7) with Denton getting angry and bashy on the bench, covering 6 and 8. I think we should have a specialist 7, and with Rennie injured that’s Fusaro. I am still perplexed as to the absence of Roddy Grant from the squad. Beattie’s form (and overall skill set) currently is ahead of Denton. Brown’s doing good things with the Sarries and we need a good compliment of players in the winning way.

        1. definitely understand the thinking of starting with fusaro and bringing denton on. as i wrote my last post i did think that that could be an equally, if not more so, effective tactic, as denton will bring more than just challenge at the breakdown. scotland definitely have a couple decent players, and i think if they can play well individually, then they should be considered for the lions, as the impact that they could have with players from the other nations could be big

          1. Aye I’d love to see a few Scots included in the Lions. I think Ryan Grant, Richie Gray, Brown, Beattie, Denton, Tim Visser and maybe Stuart Hogg have a chance, but they’ll need to have an outstanding 6N, and that would involve some unexpected results (which would be any win, given current IRB rankings!).

  5. Agreed, all of them need to perform to a high standard. I think Laidlaw could be another to be considered, because he plays 9 & 10, and can offer some good attacking play. plus we are light on 10s at the moment.

    i also think that if Ford can refind his 2009 form, he could be in with a shout, as he has lions experience. i have always been a fan of S. Lamont too. big lad who gets some go forward, maybe as a midweeker. he is also useful because he plays 12, 13 14 and 11.

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